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Why Are So Many Weather Balloons Suddenly Floating Over the Western United States?

Residents Report UFO Sighting to Police. It Turned Out to Be a Balloon
Source: Avenal Police Department

The white dot is a weather balloon, noticed in Avenal, California.

Oct. 7 2023, Published 2:01 p.m. ET

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Not all “unidentified flying objects” are spacecraft containing alien life, and one California community learned that lesson.

Several people recently called Avenal police to report something unusual high in the sky.

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According to KMPH-TV, a check by officers determined it was a weather balloon about 54,000 feet above the ground.

In fact, five such balloons were launched August 29 along the California-Nevada line. That followed the launch of several weather balloons the previous day over Sequoia National Forest and a nearby national park.

Police released a "FlightRadar" track of the balloon, reported.

They also released a flight plan, showing the balloon went up from the Inyokern Airport west of Ridgecrest.

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That explains the “what” of the UFOs. But it does not explain why.

A comment on the Avenal Police Facebook page noted the balloon sightings followed a low-level flight by a NASA jet the week before.

“Likely the same research project getting high altitude readings over the state,” the commenter speculated.

Forecasters may be preparing for a “cold air mass” that’s expected in the region during Labor Day weekend. A statement from the National Weather Service in Reno, Nevada said some wind gusts may reach 80 miles per hour, with thunderstorms possible.

“The air will be turbulent for aviators… especially smaller aircraft and gliders,” the statement said.

Other Facebook comments noted how concern over high-flying balloons has increased since February, when authorities say China flew a spy balloon across North America.

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Knewz reported in late June that the balloon apparently did not transmit any data to China, before it was shot down off the South Carolina coast.

Some candidates for President are trying to inflate the spy balloon into a campaign issue.

According to USA Today, Mike Pence told a conservative conference in Atlanta Friday, August 18 that after the shootdown, “President Biden literally sent the secretary of state hat in hand to go kowtow and ask for a meeting.”

In reality, Antony Blinken postponed a trip to China in early February and didn’t travel there until June.

“I would have sent an aircraft carrier,” Pence told the conference. “I would have said, ‘You are going to knock this stuff off now, or we will send more until you want to sit down and have a conversation.’”

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has been in China in recent days. According to, a Chinese Vice Premier expressed an interest in making “new positive efforts” for better relations.

Avenal is a city of about 13,500 people. A popular slogan is that the city is “half the way from the [San Francisco] Bay to L.A.”


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